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Designing Lives: Alex Woo

This classically-trained designer channels her jewelry heritage and Ivy League education into a sleek, fun collection.

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DESIGNER ALEX WOO has successfully carved a niche by creating pieces that are both trendy and keepsakeworthy. Her talent is in choosing her themes wisely and creating styles that are three-dimensional and modern, capturing a bold yet feminine sensibility that resonates with today’s female shopper. She has made basics, such as initials pendants, look stylish with her 3-D effect, and her Little Icon collection has grown to include a range of current and historical themes to provide a conversation piece for every woman.

ARTFUL ASPIRATION:S“From the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be some type of artist. Instead of playing with toys, I would sit for hours drawing and sketching. I first studied sculpture as a fine arts major at The High School of Music and Art. While at Cornell University, I went to Paris for a semester to study art history, and then I enrolled at Parson’s School of Design in New York City.”

INTO THE INDUSTRY: “My father is a master bench jeweler, so I was raised with a definite appreciation for gems, precious metals and fine craftsmanship. But it wasn’t until my formal training at Parsons that I discovered my passion for jewelry. My professor at the time encouraged me to enter a national design competition sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association. I entered in 1998, competing with professional designers from all across the country and won the grand prize. This incredible honor gave me a vote of confidence and inspired me to launch my own collection.”

THE COLLECTION: “I launched the collection in 2001, opting for a clean-line design aesthetic and an optimism in the feeling of the pieces. My goal is to design styles that can fit with the trends but have longevity — pieces a woman can wear for years and add to or layer.”

3-D SENSIBILITY: “I enjoy sculpting, and I love how jewelry is very much a form of this medium, but on a much smaller and accessible level. I design my jewelry with a three-dimensional perspective. Each piece from my Little Icon group is completely solid in design and can sit upright on its own like a micro-sculpture. A signature element that I incorporate is a shiny beveled edge on the right side of each piece. It is a subtle addition that gives the pieces an even more dimensional look.”

MY CUSTOMER:““She is classic but with a fresh twist, modern and bold enough to share her personal story through her jewelry. No matter what age the customer (and I sell to a wide demographic), these women all share these qualities.”

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WHAT JEWELRY MEANS: “My pieces commemorate and will continue to conjure up the memory of the moment and the jewelry that it signified. Whether it’s a child’s initial or an icon representing a childhood nickname, there’s something for everyone. Recently, my mini-letter H was written into the storyline of the TV show Private Practice, when the lead character adopted a child and decided to give the birth mother the initial of the child. Although this is just part of a television storyline, it depicts similar stories that my customers have told me.”

COLLECTION’S EVOLUTION: “My collection has expanded throughout the years, and I know that there are endless possibilities still to design. I just launched a Little Cities collection that is inspired by different locations around the world. I also love to hear feedback and suggestions from all my customers, and that sometimes can inspire my next designs.”

Q&A: GETTING PERSONAL WITH ALEX WOO

What’s your favorite piece of jewelry you designed?
“One of my favorite design collaborations was with Christina Applegate. It meant a lot to me because when I was 16, my mother passed away from breast cancer. This is a cause that is close to my heart, and so far, we have raised over $50,000 towards early detection and prevention.” If you had to have another career, what would it be? “It would be perhaps a travel and food writer. I would love to have a job where I would have to visit new destinations and try great food.”

What’s something about you that no one knows?
“I love movie theater popcorn, and I can’t see a movie in a theater without having a large bag.”

What’s your favorite piece of jewelry to wear?
“I hardly ever leave my house without my little letter A. Many people think it’s because it’s my initial, but it actually represents my son, Alexander.

What’s your favorite hobby?
“It’s not so much of a hobby, but something I just love is going to the movies. I have to see at least one film a week, and I’m a sucker for a great comedy.”

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Beth Bernstein is a published author of three books and jewelry and fashion expert with 18+ years experience. A broad knowledge of the history of jewelry and fashion coupled with a background in "the story", writing, trends, design concepts has earned Beth a proven track record.

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